Oh Big. I am proud to say that since You’re Beautiful, this is the first Hong Sisters drama I finished watching. However, while it started out somewhat hopeful, it devolved into a huge mess of a drama. Gong Yoo – and only he – was the best thing in this drama; kudos to his acting. That’s the short version of this review, and don’t click unless you want the sordid details.
The photo above perfectly exemplifies my feeling towards this drama – yay! but so painful!
For the first four episodes, the story was fun and zippy. There was the meet-cute, the whole conflict of feelings, the twists of “Is Yoon Jae a cheater or not!?” and most importantly, the confusion and hilarity of body switching. I thought that the drama was going to develop the rules of the world eventually, and let us learn more about Yoon Jae’s character even though we wouldn’t be encountering him.
But by episode 5 we jumped one year ahead in time. That time jump COULD have solved some problems in a very deus ex machina way, but it didn’t. At the time, I was thankful and not thankful at the same time; now, I’m just pissed because the time jump just made everything worse. One year time jump just cements the fact that Yoon Jae and Gyung Joon are not going to change. It also makes us like Gyung Joon even more, so that he becomes a more viable suitor for Da Ran’s heart. By episode 6, I was questioning the point of the story. I felt that with each line of dialogue, the Hong Sisters were digging themselves deeper into a hole. They made Gyung Joon-in-Yoon Jae’s body too good; he was clearly so much better than the ambiguous Yoon Jae. Da Ran was clearly going to fall for Gyung Joon in some way, which was bad because we – or I – had wanted her to fall for Yoon Jae. Since Yoon Jae had been irredeemable the entire time, because they took so long to clarify his intentions towards Se Young, I just wanted him to die. If he came alive in Gyung Joon’s body, that would have been SO MUCH MORE FUN. I’m amazed the Hong Sisters didn’t do that. Why?! You had so much more potential and story lines if you did that!!
It’s also because even by 6 episodes no rules had been set about the world. In My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, there were rules. In Secret Garden, we kind of knew what the rules were (they switch during storms, and it’s all because of the wine, and her father had mystically known his daughter was going to die and so he was trying to save her). But here, we don’t know how they switched and how they’d go back. The guidelines were super vague – just because they were lab babies at the same time does not qualify as a strong enough mystical connection between the two. One being born to save the other could be a good reason for the soul switching, but it was never convincing to me. Again, they really should have given us some indication that Gyung Joon-Body was going to wake up – even with Yoon Jae’s soul – before I started to forget that I wanted him anymore.
And I think that’s what happened – the Hong Sisters didn’t know what to do with Gyung Joon-Body, or they forgot about him. It’s a waste of actors, and the Hong Sisters made a grievous mistake in concentrating on the main duo. As of late, they’ve been making the side characters such 2D personalities that it’s become quite annoying. I think it started happening with, or after, You’re Beautiful. (With You’re Beautiful I’m a little unsure because while I think Jeremy and Shin Woo were given some shades of depth, it could have also been the acting that gave it depth (or lack thereof). UEE did a fine job with her He Yi character, though that character was decidedly 2D). While I thought Ma Ri was somewhat a decent character, she ended up being quite annoying and static – unwavering and irritating beside Gyung Joon/Yoon Jae. Suzy made her somewhat palatable because she could play over-the-top just enough without being off-putting for me. It was a total waste of Shin Won Ho as well – he’s a decent actor if you watch Bachelor’s Vegetable Store, and yet you leave him on the hospital bed to sleep!? You don’t even give him a moment to bask in Da Ran’s love as himself in his own body at the end of the series!? To show himself as a mature man worthy of her love – which I’m totally sure he could convey despite his youthful appearance?!
(Side note: To me, it’s utterly obvious that the person who got off the bus at the end with Da Ran was Gong Yoo based on height, hair color, and voice.)
Se Young has become less of an annoying fourth wheel, and more like the one who finds out everything. It suits the actor’s abilities, since all she has to do is be exposition for the rest of us. However, it just indicates that she’s another casualty of the Hong Sisters’ short attention span to character depth. Her confrontation scene with Da Ran in episode 11 – where she just gives up her love for Yoon Jae – was like, WHUT? It was lame and ridiculous. (Refer to the photo above right for a representation of my reaction.)
When Ma Ri discovered that Gyung Joon was in Yoon Jae’s body, that became interesting. However, it doesn’t solve the problem – one more person knowing doesn’t help! I’d rather have the main duo knowing what they need to do to switch back, and THEN get caught in the process. Or, when Ma Ri found out, then they would ramp up their speed in finding a solution instead of wallowing in self-pity, wondering who they really love all the time.
Episode 6 was when I officially checked out of the drama (4 less than Greatest Love!) as I was constantly questioning whom I should root for. At the time, I was still stuck on Yoon Jae and wanting to know his side of the story, wanting to confirm that he’s really in love with Da Ran. But then I also wanted Gyung Joon to succeed – even though that love angle was initially icky for me because she’s a teacher, and he’s a student. Comparing Da Ran’s love life with that of her parents was a cheap move in trying to legitimize the relationship.
While I accepted Gyung Joon-Da Ran pairing after a while, I admit it was mainly because physically he was a man with an older face. This reasoning is probably why the Hong Sisters didn’t want to show Gyung Joon’s face at the end of the drama – they made you imagine whether it was Shin Won Ho or Gong Yoo at the end – because they knew that some people like me might be weirded out. However, weirded out or not, they took me on this ride where I believed in Gyung Joon and the fact that he was much younger than her; I wanted and accepted her with a man younger than she was. They robbed me of the satisfaction of knowing that the brothers TRULY switched places, and she ended up with the brother she really loved. They robbed Shin Won Ho of his moment to shine. They didn’t follow through. It’s like they knew they had to do it, but were too scared to, and therefore found another way to do it. For example – they knew they had to have the wedding, but they skipped it ENTIRELY; why, because it’s a sham wedding? They also could have shown the actual body switch; instead, they skipped ahead with a time jump! I don’t even understand this whole underwater limbo crap where Gyung Joon in Yoon Jae’s body is speaking all the time! If they were in limbo where their souls are trapped, shouldn’t Gyung Joon be played by Shin Won Ho, and Yoon Jae by Gong Yoo? Why make Gong Yoo do everything!?
Out of all the Hong Sisters dramas I’ve seen to completion, this is probably one of their most melodramatic ones to date. Having a child just to save your elder one? Well that’s dark! However, I felt that we had some lazy, cowardly writing going on in this drama. Nothing was making sense – I was no longer following when Gyung Joon was confessing to Da Ran or when he was just pulling her leg. I didn’t understand Yoon Jae’s sickness, or why they had to make a big deal about going to Germany (because really – is that necessary?). This drama was all over the place in tone. It was a good idea, but they had no idea how to implement it. Different from Greatest Love, where they had a good idea and then had to change it due to plagiarism accusations, only to make the story worse because they didn’t adjust the script to its older cast. I think a good writer needs SOME good substance within the plot instead of relying on good chemistry all the way through! It focused too much on Gong Yoo and Lee Min Jung, when the thing that I was more interested in was how the two of them interacted with everyone else.
So. Just because you’re the Hong Sisters does not make your drama a hit. I don’t care if Gumiho or Greatest Love were better; at this point I’m tempted to think they were compared to this one since, while they stretched credulity, at least it had some consistent story. (I do appreciate the Vitamin Water appearing all the time – kind of like an allusion to Dokko Jin.) Can you just go back to doing dramas like you used to, particularly in the style of My Girl? That was better – it was somewhat grounded, fun and zany, had decent development of all characters, and still enjoyable.
As for the other characters – Yoon Jae’s parents are the stiffest cardboards ever and unlikable at every turn. Baek Sung Hyun as Choong Sik is so adorable that I really enjoyed how he played his character; I can’t wait to see him in more dramas. Da Ran’s parents are developed a little better and have more heart, but even then it’s hard to accept their backstory; if I never knew it, I would have been ok with them. Their backstory made them more outrageous and weird than they had to be. Their little love square with Jang Hyun Sung and Choi Ran was beyond ridiculous, even though it was kind of funny in a campy way. (Jang Hyun Sung is way better in Ghost.) Jang Hee Jin – bleh. Lee Min Jung – now she was quite good. She was definitely someone whom one could identify with when she was struggling to figure out who she was in love with. She was someone I could pity, sympathize, and side with. I think she and Gong Yoo worked well together, but Gong Yoo certainly had a meatier role.
Rating: 4/10. All 4 points go to Gong Yoo. I’ve officially checked out of Hong Sisters. Three strikes already.